Santa Maria Novella perfumes and colognes via Santa Maria Novella©
I harbor a thing for Hannibal Lecter. There; that’s out of the way. While I adore actor Anthony Hopkins and always have, I confess that Mads Mikkelsen rings my chimes on so many levels that I don’t rightly know where to begin. During this lockdown it’s been my immense pleasure to view (and revisit) the Netflix series entitled Hannibal that’s currently available: well-scripted, beautifully filmed, properly scored, brilliantly casted with subtly complex performances.
still from the 2013 movie Hanibal
What has all this to do with the Officina Profumo Santa Maria Novella Firenze, you may well ask? Simpler than you surmise: in both the original 2001 film starring Julianne Moore and Anthony Hopkins AND the current series, our hero/nemesis Dr. Lecter indulges his refined tastes by frequenting Santa Maria Novella during his academic detente in Florence. His image captured on security camera provides that pivotal moment which alerts the FBI to his locus after many years of being unable to determine his whereabouts. And naturally, it is his bon goût and vanity which ensure his ensnarement.
Santa Maria Novella perfumes and colognes via Ida©
In 2001 I had not yet been to Florence, but my ever-burgeoning collection of Santa Maria Novella fragrances was growing exponentially. Thanks to the now-defunct Takashimaya and much-loved Aedes De Venustas (still standing, thank heavens!) in Greenwich Village, I’d had the opportunity to smell them all: the eau de colognes, lotions, potions, creams, scented vinegars, triple estrattos, soaps, shampoos, etc. I loved so many. It wasn’t until fairly recently (thanks to LUSH and their kind invitation to be present at the opening of their first stand-alone perfume library!) that I was able to partake of the ineffable loveliness of Firenze herself, if briefly – an opportunity for which I will be forever grateful. I understand how Dr. Lecter felt, and I think that you would, too.
via trip advisor
When it comes to choosing a mere three fragrances one could go mad. There is no right or wrong – and Santa Maria Novella has something for everyone, whether you love florals, citrus, woods, incense, amber, leather, herbals, volupté or ephemerality. I always felt that the term ‘eau de cologne’ was so misleading when referring to their fragrances, as they tend to possess tremendous longevity (with the exception of a few reformulated scents which smelt somewhat attenuated to my old nose recently). Some have nuclear sillage as well – and fortunately the house continues to package them with an optional atomiser, should you choose to envelop yourself in their fragrances. Sometimes there are situations where dabbing is preferable, so that alternative is always available without having to decant.
SantaMaria Novella Acqua di Cuba, Ginestra and Lana photo Ida
Which three did Santa Maria Novella did I choose? The flacons themselves will tell the story. They range from fairly vintage to contemporary, as labeling and design reveal. My first is Acqua di Cuba (1998), one of the first I purchased; the second, Ginestra (I couldn’t find a date for its release), and the last a more recent release, Lana (2017).
photo via Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba: One of the first Santa Maria Novellas I purchased was Acqua di Cuba – and ironically it was not during the autumnal or wintry season you might have expected, but full Spring. I was bewitched by the unapologetically voluptuous richness of it, seduced by its fleeting citrus topnote followed by such honeyed, moist pipe tobacco tones barely tinged with leather. My body heat made it bloom; I recall the long train ride back to Boston feeling as if I were cocooned in abject luxury. One would almost suspect that opoponax lingers amidst the materials, considering the round resinous quality this scent projects. It’s amazing on nearly everyone I’ve dabbed over the years. After several decades, my husband actually permitted me to anoint him, and it was a revelation to him (Mr. Pino Silvestre, Penhaligon Blenheim Bouquet, original Eau Savage and Guerlain Eau de Cologne Impériale/ Vetiver). The stubborn one was smitten. Interestingly, the leather smells more noticeable in the drydown. Notes: citrus, cardamom, honey, spices, tobacco, leather, clary sage
photo via Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella Ginestra: Lordy, lordy. Ginestra (aka broom flower) is such a heady floral note which smells green to me, despite its yellow hue. Here it is showcased with narcissus in tow – which creates such freshness. The violet is wispy, a brushstroke; orange almost an illusion. Oakmoss and birch refresh the soul, awash and verdant as a nap in a meadow replete with both sun and shadow. The birch reminds me of a Swedish sauna soap with which I washed my clothing by hand during my sojourn there in my late teens (Royal Swedish Birch Leaf Soap!). I’ve been known to layer Ginestra with Santa Maria Novella Vetiver, or wear Ginestra and Santa Maria Novella Violetta together. Another surprise to my husband, who will definitely wear this in warmer weather. Notes: broom, violet, orange, narcissus, orchid, oakmoss, resins, birch
Santa Maria Novella Lana was a gift from a dear friend. We immediately visited Santa Maria Novella right after we had checked into our hotel in Florence, ravenously hungry and jet-lagged. It was one he adored – and it smelt completely different on each of us. With his masculine skin, it skewed a bit more jagged, slightly animalic and woody; on me, it smelt rosy/figgy/herbal/mossy. While it wasn’t immediate love-at-first-sniff, it fascinated and grew on me until I felt utterly compelled. Lana was composed for Ballantyne’s fine cashmere sports line, meant to evoke one’s hands (and nose) buried in wool – hence the name. That’s a lovely concept, whether or not Lana actually does conjure that experience for you – but for me, it’s an amalgam of rosy/fruity/herbal woodiness which possesses a little ‘scratch’, in a most charming manner. I KNEW I smelt fig, but it wasn’t until I checked their website that I could confirm my suspicion. However it plays out on one’s skin, Lana is unique, tonic and delightful. It smells timeless yet contemporary and very, very chic. Notes: bergamot, cardamom, fig flowers, green notes, marine notes, rose, herbaceous green notes, leather, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, moss, musk
The perfumes reviewed are from my own collection. My nose is my own…
~ Ida Meister, Deputy Editor and Natural Perfumery Editor
Santa Maria Novella was established in 1612 logo via @santamarianvella1612
Dear readers: I believe in spreading the good things around. It’s my pleasure to decant three little glass bottles of Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba, Ginestra and Lana for one registered reader in the U.S or Canada. You must be a registered user of ÇaFleureBon. It is simple to do, just follow the prompt here. To be eligible, please leave a comment regarding what intrigued you about Ida’s article and where you live. Do you have a favorite from Santa Maria Novella fragrance? Draw closes 6/12/2021
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